Brooklyn takes a trip up north to play the Toronto Raptors

Scott Halleran

Funny as it sounds, this is actually a huge game for the Brooklyn Nets, and not just because they need to break the cold spell they're in. Despite their horrendous play (& the usual calls for ending divisions because one division is awful), they only find themselves 2.5 games out of first place. This is the first night of a back-to-back, and the Nets return home for a game against the LA Lakers. After that, they end the month with a back-to-back in Houston and Memphis.

The opponent this evening will be the Toronto Raptors. Out of respect to our friends at Raptors HQ, I won't refer to the Raptors as "division leading." Although they haven't been as bad as the rest of the Atlantic Division, they're still a poor team and come into this game with a 6-7 record. If the Nets are lucky, the Raptors will be looking ahead to their matchup at home against Miami on Friday night.

But they're not taking the Nets for granted.  Their coach, Dwane Casey, says ultimately they will be fine.

“Believe me, Brooklyn’s going to be OK. They’re going to bounce back. I don’t see anything that has anything to do with coaching. It’s just injuries right now, guys learning to play with each other, it’s only 13 games into the season,” Casey said after practice Monday.

The season so far

How have our neighbors up north been doing compared to us? Let's check it out:

2013-2014

Brooklyn

Toronto

Record

3-10 6-7

Pace

95.31 94.95

Offensive Efficiency

98.5 101.6

Defensive Efficiency

106.3 99.1

Offensive Rebounding percentage

24.3 30

Turnover rate

15.9 15.1

Assist rate

15.2 13.7

Rebound rate

48.5 51.7

Free throw rate

32.8 31.1

Effective Field Goal percentage

47.2 46.5

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50 49.6

Different opponent, same story. The Nets weren't able to play a good second half and lost for the fifth straight time. With Brook Lopez still out (no update on the status of Lopez, Williams, Andrei Kirilenko & Jason Terry as of this writing), the Nets allowed 56 points in the paint to Detroit. If the Nets want to turn things around while their big players are out, Joe Johnson is going to have to raise his game. He's off to a great start, scoring 38 points on an effective field goal percentage of 88 percent. Now he certainly won't shoot that well every night, but if he's able to provide efficient shooting on a consistent basis, the Nets might (might) get themselves back above .500. They're also going to need Andray Blatche to play better. Even if Lopez & Garnett were healthy and playing at acceptable levels, Blatche was going to be critical to the team's success. And with Lopez & Garnett not being up to par (in health & otherwise) this year, Blatche has failed to step up. He hasn't shot well enough, and has been even worse than usual on defense. The Nets are already the worst defense in the league, and they manage to let up 109 points per 100 possessions with Blatche on the court & are much worse on the glass.

Much like our Nets, the Raptors are a bad team and very painful to watch. Raptors HQ's Zach Salzzman's dreams of a world without the high usage, low efficiency ways of Rudy Gay & Demar DeRozan:

And if we take a moment to imagine the Raps without DeRozan or Gay -- preferably without both of them -- it's not hard to see a world in which the team instantly becomes more exciting to watch. A world in which Kyle Lowry runs the offense -- running a healthy dose of pick-n-rolls/pick-n-pops with Amir and Jonas -- while the likes of Steve Novak, Landry Fields, and Terrence Ross spot-up in the corners and move without the ball. The ball doesn't stick, players pass knowing there's a good chance they'll get the ball back; and plays are actually run for Jonas after the 1st quarter, accelerating his progression into a top NBA centre.

*The piece just referenced was written on November 15th, and to be fair to DeRozan, he has been shooting well since then.

The Nets are one of the weaker defensive rebounding teams in the league & the Raptors are the second best offensive rebounding team in the league. The Pistons are the best, and we just saw what happened to the Nets on Sunday. Their shooting numbers aren't particularly impressive, but they do a good job of getting to the free throw line and the Nets do a good job of sending the opponent to the free throw line (fourth highest opponent free throw rate). This figures to be a long game with a lot of misses and trips to the free throw line.

Player to watch: Rudy Gay

Although Rudy is very talented, that skill hasn't translated into on court success. For a player that is fifth in the Association in usage rate, he only has a True Shooting percentage of 46.2 percent, which is unacceptable for a player who has the ball in his hands as often as he does (just to give you an idea of how often the ball runs through him, he has a higher usage rate than Kevin Durant, LeBron James & Paul George). He gets to the free throw line five times a night which is OK, but he needs to get to the line more often. He's been struggling from the midrange, is having a career year from behind the three point line. He figures to be defended by Paul Pierce a lot and should have some level of success against him.

In an interview with the mothership's James Herbert, he spoke of bringing leadership to the team. And as someone who doesn't have access to the team's day-to-day functions, I don't think it's fair to comment on what he is or isn't providing the team as it relates to leadership & other intangibles.

From the Vault


Head back to the Spring of 2001 and relive one of Vince Carter's greatest performances. Funnily enough, this is the furthest the Raptors have ever gone in the playoffs.

More Reading: Raptors HQ

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